Despite her undoubted intelligence, the myth of beautiful, Cleopatra as original ‘Diva’, is popularly regarded as historical fact, particularly in the Euro-centric West. The myth originates from a Shakespearean play, based on Plutarch’s biographical Life of Anthony. Although, various other, culturally specific variations exist, his fairly, contemporary account, is regarded as being, closest to the ‘truth’.
Plutarch wrote his historical biography150yrs after the event. He portrays Cleopatra as a manipulative, sexual predator, and Anthony as effeminate victim. As a female, royalist, and outsider, Cleopatra was always a controversial figure, and often the victim of vicious propaganda campaigns. After their defeat, the Roman propaganda machine, went into overdrive, celebrating Octavian as Roman hero and heaping humiliation on the losers. Which, partially accounts for Plutarch’s interpretation of events. There was also a lack of comparative Egyptian records, meaning Plutarch’s only resources would have been derived solely from surviving samples of Roman poetry, such as Horace, Ode 1.37, which refers to Cleopatra as the ‘mad queen’.
Romans, did not believe in love. Having feelings for someone was fine so long you were disciplined. However, Anthony lost control, and Cleopatra was held responsible, by patriarchal Roman society. Plutarch claims her manipulative, Eastern ways, had transformed Anthony into an effeminate shadow of his former self.
Plutarch claims, she, 'kept him in constant tutelage, and released him neither night nor day’.(Plutarch: makers of Rome, reprinted in AA100 Assignment Booklet, 2008, p.18). She certainly had a great deal invested in Anthony. It also suggests Cleopatra was more than Anthony’s equal in most areas, further feminization.
He says they wandered the streets of Alexandria, and that Anthony, ‘would station himself at the doors or windows of the common folk and scoff at those within’ (Plutarch: makers of Rome). The pair were more likely enjoying their hosts’ company, and perhaps, Plutarch is undermining that relationship.
Plutarch also claims the pair would dress up as servants, and that Anthony, ‘reaped a harvest of abuse for his pains’ (Plutarch: makers of Rome). Perhaps the couple wanted to go unnoticed, or this may be an early example pro-Western propaganda. Halfway through the mood changes, and Plutarch offers a playful anecdote, of the two lovers, behaving as lovers do. He understands Anthony’s need to impress the woman he desires. And, probably, how it feels to be trumped, and humiliated too. At the end of Cleopatra’s game, he records how ‘there was great laughter, as was natural’ (Plutarch: makers of Rome).
Cleopatra then tells Anthony to ‘hand over thy fishing-rod to the fishermen of Pharos and Canopus’, both towns being renowned for their fishing ability. For he is an ‘Imperator’. This feels, to me, like remorse. For Anthony’s had great potential responsibility, despite his less than successful attempts to impress Cleopatra.
Here, he finally shows rare compassion for Anthony, and some understanding of the lovers’ situation. and perhaps refers to the fact that each of us is responsible for our own destiny.
Bibliography Plutarch, Life of Anthony, 29-30; quoted from Perrin, B. (trans.) (1968) Plutarch’s Lives, vol. 9. The Open University (2008), AA100: The Arts Past and Present: OU (Fear 2008), Milton Keynes, The Open University
- Taster materials
- Preparing for AA100
- Frequently asked questions
- Reserve a place or register
Can we ever know what leaders or celebrities were really like? How are traditions created? And can they be changed? How well can we understand each other across cultures? These are questions that matter and questions an Arts degree can help you to answer.
We’re delighted that you’re thinking of studying the Arts at the Open University. This site will introduce you to studying the Arts and humanities at level one – which is broadly the equivalent to the first year at a campus-based university. A unique aspect of the level one Arts programme at the OU is that it is entirely interdisciplinary; covering Art History, Classics, English, History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies. This means your level one study is rich and wide ranging, providing you with the skills and confidence to progress to levels two and three, where you might specialise in a specific arts subject area; or combine two arts disciplines through a BA (Hons) Arts and Humanities degree (R14); or include the Arts in wider undergraduate study, perhaps through an Open Degree (QD). One of the great things about level one interdisciplinary study is that it can help you decide which approaches to studying and the Arts and humanities really interest you.
The starting point for level one study in the Arts is the module The Arts past and present (AA100). This broad ranging module will teach you to think critically about the Arts within different disciplines, and covers four themes:
- reputations, and issues of fame in the arts;
- the relationship between tradition and dissent;
- the dynamics of cultural encounters;
- meanings and ideas of place and leisure.
Whether you are entering higher education for the first time, or returning to study, we are confident you will find The Arts past and present a valuable learning experience. To get a flavour of AA100, the topics it covers, and exactly what level one study involves, watch the video below.
If you’re not sure about studying The Arts Past and Present - here are some short films that deal with topics in the first part of the module, made to whet your appetite! See in the following extracts from the study material. They give a flavour of some of the subjects covered in the first part of the module and there are brief video extracts of material associated with Books 2 and 4. There is also advice on starting to study this module.
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This page contains links to some extracts from some of the materials used in The Arts Past and Present. They give a flavour of some of the subjects covered in the module and give you a sense of the type of language and analysis used in university study.
Use the extracts to see if you feel that the module is suited to you, and if you are ready for university study. You don’t need to work through every detail – just get a feel for the ideas and language.
If you’ve registered for the module – these extracts will give you a head start!
Sample study materialBook 1 Reputations
Cleopatra According to the Romans, from Book 1 Chapter 1, ‘Cleopatra’, by Trevor Fear
Figures and the picture plane in painting, from Book 1 Chapter 3, ‘Cézanne’, by Charles Harrison.
Find out if there are any Cézanne paintings at a location you could visit. View as PDF; view as an RTF file.
What to expect
What to expect shows how the various elements of the module fit together, explains the role of assessment and tution and gives some advice about pacing yourself.
To get an idea of how the various elements of the module fit together, see the study outline.
Module structure and materials, Section 1.3 of the Study Companion. This explains how the various parts of the module fit together.
Assessment and Tuition, Section 1.5 of the Study Companion. This explains the role of assessment in the module - what you have to do, why and when.
Pacing Yourself, Section 2.2 of the Study Companion. This includes some activities to help you plan your work at the start of the module.
The OpenLearn website has material from a wide range of OU courses. You can find material from AA100 on Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, which is also part of Book 1.
There’s also associated material on the Radio 3 production of the play on OpenLearn. You’ll receive an audio DVD of the whole play as part of the AA100 module materials.
The unit on Plato on tradition and belief explores Plato's dialogue, the Laches, and covers what you will study in the first chapter of Book 2.You can view extracts of module videos on OpenLearn where you can watch short films on Divas, Irish traditions, the Benin bronzes and Roman mosaics.
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Preparing for AA100 before the module starts
There are lots of things you can do to get ready for the module now.
Start by thinking about your study skills, particularly in relation to using a computer for learning. We recommend that you look at:
- The Skills for OU Study site. This includes essential advice on issues such as writing assignments, use of English for study, study strategies, note taking, and working with others. You can select which toolkits to use depending on what you find helpful.
- Computing skills forms part of the Skills for OU Study site, focused on the use of computers for study. This gives you tips about what you need to do before the module begins; how to participate in online forums; how to use computers to help with your writing; how to use web searches for study.
- The following books are strongly recommended: Ellie Chambers and Andy Northedge, The Arts Good Study Guide (Open University Worldwide, 2008); Stella Cotrell, The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave, 2003)
Study skills are covered in detail in the Preparatory Week of the module.
For the moment, though, focus on a few key issues:
- Are you ready for using a computer in study? If not, see the computing skills section of Skills for OU Study
- Is your written English ready for study a university level course in the Arts and Humanities? If you’re concerned, see this material which includes online diagnostic tests. If you find this material difficult, see the section on coping with language challenges
- Your physical environment for study: have you sorted out where and when you’ll work on AA100? See this website for practical advice.
The set texts and DVD for the module are:
Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus: the A-text (1604) (ed. John O’Connor), Longman, £7.99
Paul Muldoon (ed.), The Faber Book of Beasts, Faber, £9.99
If you want to make a start with this set, concentrate on the poems which are studied in detail in the course: Blake’s ‘The Fly’, Donne’s ‘The Flea’, Holub’s ‘The Fly’, and the poems in the volume by D. H. Lawrence.
Seamus Heaney, The Burial at Thebes, Faber, £9.99
Lynda Prescott (ed.), A World of Difference: an anthology of short stories from five continents, Palgrave Macmillan, £11.99
Gurinda Chadha (dir.) Bhaji on the Beach, Channel 4 DVD,£15.99 (This DVD can be bought for £10.99 delivered direct from the Channel4Shop at www.play.com. It is also available from internet and high street retailers.)
If you buy your set books in advance, you might like to read through Doctor Faustus and The Burial at Thebes. You might also like to read some poems from The Faber Book of Beasts and some stories from A World of Difference, but you shouldn’t try to read all of these books from cover to cover. Good poems to start with are Blake’s ‘The Fly’, Donne’s ‘The Flea’, and Holub’s ‘The Fly’; a good story to begin with is Gordimer’s ‘The Ultimate Safari’.
- There’s also useful material on the Radio 3 production of Doctor Faustus, a copy of which you’ll receive as CDs as part of the module material, on the OpenLearn website.
- You could go to an art gallery, especially if you’re lucky enough to live near one which contains any paintings by Cézanne, whom you’ll study in Book 1. The following links take you to a list of museums and galleries which own paintings by him. View as PDF; view as an RTF file.
You can also get an idea of how the various elements of the module fit together by viewing the study outline.
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Frequently asked questions
We’ve tried to anticipate the questions you might have before you start studying. These are divided into questions you may have before you have registered and questions you have once you have started the module.
Before you start the module
How much preparatory work do I have to do?
Only as much as you have time for at this point in time. AA100 has been structured so that you should have time to work through all of the materials and the assessments during the study period allocated to the module. If you buy your set books in advance, follow this link for advice about what to read before the module starts.
I really want to do the module, but I’m not sure that I can afford it. Is there anything the OU can do to help?
The University may be able to help you, depending on your financial circumstances. Follow this link for more details.
I have little or no computer experience. What can I do?
You could start with the Computing skills section of the Skills for OU Study website. This covers the basic computing skills you will need to study with us. If you’re thinking about buying a computer, see the section on how to go about choosing a computer that's right for you. There is also advice about setting up access to the internet.
The BBC’s WebWise is a step-by-step guide to using the internet which you might also find helpful.
I don’t have a computer of my own. What should I do?
All public libraries have internet enabled computers available to the general public. Access to these computers may be free or there may be a small charge (with most libraries charging for printing). They can be very popular, so you may have to book.
Can I use OU materials on machines in public libraries?
You should have no problems using the module’s online resources. However you may need to use a friend’s computer to view the interactive DVD-Roms as sometimes computer access in libraries can be difficult. The OU Library has guidance on what to do in these circumstances. Follow this link for further information.
After you’ve registered
When will I get my study materials?
Your study materials will come in one mailing. This contains the Study Companion, the assignment booklet, the four main module books and the attendant DVDs and CDs.
What should I do if my study materials don’t arrive?
You can track when your study materials were sent to you via the ‘materials despatch’ tab from StudentHome. If they haven’t arrived 10 days after they have been despatched, you should contact the University, and a replacement set will be sent.
When will I be told who my tutor is?
Shortly before the start of the module.
How soon can I start using the online forums to talk to other students?
You can start using the Open University Students Association (OUSA) forums soon after you’ve registered. The module specific forums and websites will not open until nearer the start of the module.
How much time will I need to spend working on the module on average each week?
For each study week, you need to spend between 12 and 16 hours on the module. The study materials include a planner which explains what you should be doing and when.
How does my tutor help me with my studies?
Your tutor is assigned to you at the beginning of the module. He or she will help you – as part of a small group of students – through the whole module by offering online and face to face tutorials, by marking your work, and will give you one to one help if you run into problems.
What happens in a face to face tutorial?
Face to face tutorials are a central part of teaching at the Open University. All the students assigned to a tutor are invited to attend a programme of tutorials. The content of each session will vary – some will help you with assignments. In others you’ll have the chance to work through materials with other students and to use extra material to help practise your study skills. Many students enjoy tutorials and the chance to meet other students and chat about the module.
What is a day school?
Day schools provide the chance for students within a region to come together for a day of dedicated study. Tutors and other academics offer lectures, workshops and study sessions on a variety of topics.
What happens in an online tutorial?
In an online tutorial, tutors will post up a series of questions and materials over a few days. You’re invited to post back your answers, comments and thoughts. Online tutorials have a different feel to face to face sessions – you have more time to think about you answers.
What do I do if I fall behind the course schedule?
The most important thing to do is not to worry without good cause. The module is not designed to be an obstacle course, and if you do fall behind, your tutor will be able to advise you about where to concentrate your energies. You are not assessed on every piece of study material, and while you will do better on the module the more of it you can read, you may find it easier to focus on chapters which have assignments at least in the first instance. See pp.13-14 of the Study Companion ‘How to study AA100: the role of Assessment’ for more advice.
Everyone else seems to be much further ahead than I am - I feel like I’m racing to keep up with them. Shouldn’t I be worried?
Try not to gauge your progress through the course on the basis of other peoples’ experiences. While some students like to read the material a long time in advance, for the vast majority, this isn’t possible. There’s no evidence that people who study a long time in advance do better than those who follow the study calendar; indeed, if you read too much too soon, you can forget important arguments and evidence when it comes to writing assignments. The study calendar has been designed so that you can strike a balance between making progress through the module and keeping up with the rest of your life; see pp.23-28 of the Study Companion ‘Pacing Yourself’ for more advice.
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